Burglaries not uncommon at Las Vegas hotels

The morning Vicki Bambini was burglarized for $1,000 in her Golden Nugget hotel room marked her 30th year visiting Las Vegas.

In 2008, she and her sister were sleeping in their room on the 20th floor of the downtown hotel when both heard a noise and thought it was each other. When she awoke, the Columbus, Ohio, resident said she noticed the door was ajar and all the money in both wallets plus chips and slot machine tickets was gone.

Crime is no stranger to Las Vegas hotels. From May 17-23, there were six robberies, 17 burglaries and five thefts on Las Vegas Boulevard, according to the Las Vegas Police Department’s crime map. Officer Bill Cassell said if there’s no threat of violence, an incident such as Bambini’s would be classified as a burglary.

“This was an isolated circumstance that occurred in 2008 and the hotel took the proper procedures in handling the guests’ situation. Our security staff is alert and diligent in doing their job to ensure the safety of our guests, but we also recommend that guests utilize the deadbolt and safety latches to ensure these situations are avoided during their stay,” Jim Friesen, senior vice president of hotel operations at the Golden Nugget, said in a statement.

He added the hotel provides room safes for guests to store personal effects.

“The safety of our guests is very important to us at the Golden Nugget and when these situations arise we take the proper action necessary to rectify them quickly and properly,” Friesen said.

Bambini said she thinks the burglary was an inside job because it looked like someone used a key and there was no forced entry into her room — her deadbolt wasn’t attached because it was broken.

Bambini is not alone.

In late February, 64-year-old Lynn Browder was staying at The Orleans for three nights, in room 1528. On her last night, someone entered and stole her iPhone and wallet. She said she called the front desk, which sent security to her room. After taking a report, security found that her room had been entered three times between 11:30 p.m. and 4 a.m. with a card key. But Browder still had both of her sets in her possession, she said.

Browder was advised to take her report to the Las Vegas Police Department for needed identification to help board her flight.

“Once the security team took the report, that was the end of the assistance from The Orleans,” Browder said.

Back at home in Dallas, Browder called the hotel.

“They treated me like I was trying to defraud them. They wanted to know how I was able to get on my flight if I had lost all my identification,” Browder said.

She contends, like Bambini, that her burglary was an inside job.

“It’s still continuing and nothing’s being done about it,” Bambini said.

David Strow, director of corporate communications for Boyd Gaming Corp., said: “Generally speaking these are not frequent occurrences. Incidents like this do happen in hotels all across the country. This is not just a Las Vegas issue.”

He couldn’t comment on Browder’s specific situation because it’s an ongoing investigation. But, he did say tourists can help prevent theft by always making sure they engage deadbolts or latches on all doors and keep them locked.

“These are the same preventive measures you would take at home,” Strow said.

Since her experience, Bambini has researched and subsequently reached out to other Las Vegas hotel room burglary victims. She finds them through their postings on Tripadvisor.com.

Countless tales of money being stolen from hotel rooms all over Vegas while sleeping are being told via travel reservation sites. One prominent property apparently tried to give a guest $100 to sign a form waiving the hotel of all rights after being burglarized, and a man from Brazil had $1,600 plus credit cards stolen from his hotel room at another Strip property.

As for Boyd Gaming, Strow said, “We are committed to providing safe and secure environment for guests.”

Cassell said the initial investigation for a hotel room burglary is completed by hotel security, then the police department takes over.

“The majority of hotels here in Las Vegas, ... have exceptionally trained security officers and do an exceptionally good job of assisting us in investigations,” Cassell said. “We do have a very effective working relationship with the hotel industry.”

The burglary was not enough to deter Bambini from returning to Las Vegas or the Golden Nugget. She returned in May and stayed at the downtown hotel. But she placed battery-operated alarms on her hotel room door as a precaution.

A 10-year customer of The Orleans, Browder used to stay there two or three times a year. Now she’s not sure she’s even coming back.

“It is not just the stuff that is taken. It is the secure feeling that you should feel when you stay at a hotel, which I have been robbed of,” Browder said.

Contact reporter Laura Carroll at lcarroll@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4588. Follow @lscvegas on Twitter.